While many aspects of funding and sharing pet food research were covered by both panelists and audience during the 2017 Petfood Forum Town Hall (How is research currently conducted? What determines whether or not research is published? Who actually cares if research is published at all?), one note that was struck over and over was the disconnect among various industry avenues, academia and consumers, and the need for more and better communication to mend that disconnect.
Bridging the gap and making communication a priority
According to Micah Kohles, DVM, director of veterinary science and outreach for Oxbow Animal Health and one of the panelists, it “comes down to a conversation in a hall to get synergy — there has to be a better way.” That better way, said the panelists, is through education and communication in all aspects of the industry. Whether it’s engaging more schools for resources, casting a wider research net with publications or making the most of social media to reach consumers (“Social media works great for non-science; we need to make it work for science, too,” said David Meeker, PhD, senior vice president, scientific services, for the National Renderers Association and one of the panelists), the pet food industry has to put itself out there.
But why? “We have to fight the fake news and misinformation,” said Karen Wedekind, PhD, comparative nutrition manager for Novus International and one of the panelists. “We have to get the industry together and educate the consumer.”
Consumer education is a hot topic right now among industry experts. In a recent Petfood Industry piece on pet obesity, it was the focus of many who believe that the only way left for the pet food industry to help pet owners keep their animals healthy is to educate them on what and how they’re feeding those pets. And while you’re unlikely to find anyone involved in the industry who will say that consumer communication and education is anything but an uphill battle, the point the Town Hall panelists were making was that communication and education among ourselves shouldn’t be.
Briefly: Reasons why pet food research isn’t published
According to Petfood Forum 2017 Town Hall panelists Richard Butterwick, PhD, global nutrition advisor for the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition; Micah Kohles, DVM, director of veterinary science and outreach for Oxbow Animal Health; David Meeker, PhD, senior vice president, scientific services, for the National Renderers Association and research director for the Fats and Proteins Research Foundation; and Karen Wedekind, PhD, comparative nutrition manager for Novus International.
- The research contains proprietary information.
- There are a limited number of academic journals interested in pet food research.
- There are delays/red tape in the publishing process that make it not worth the effort or irrelevant by the time everything is worked out.
- The research may be important to those who work on it, but may ultimately not be as important to the company they work for, and so resources to publish are never provided.
- The research shows negative results.
- The research is not tied to a product launch, and so is deemed unimportant.